Graham Davies discusses “The Mehrabian Myth”
When coaching clients I tell them the words that you say and how they come out of your mouth are far more important than anything the rest of your body is doing.
Albert Mehrabian, a Professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, carried out a series of studies in the 1960s about the relative importance of the spoken word in face-to-face communication. The results of his research are typically expressed like this:
‘Only 7 per cent of the overall impact that you have in spoken communication comes from the actual words you say’.
By typically I mean totally grossly inaccurately. For about 30 years, through no fault of his, Professor Mehrabian’s research has been constantly misquoted. What you should know is the participants were only allowed to use one word at a time… with the only variation allowed being the tone adopted in saying those words. The 7% number only relates to situations where the speaker is talking about their feelings. Mehrabian has never suggested that non-verbal factors are more important than what you are actually saying.
So forget about gestures. The minds of the audience will be on what you are saying, not what your hands are doing.